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Where to go off-piste over Xmas?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
I'm planning on going away for 7-10 days over Xmas (maybe 14 at a push) will be traveling solo and would like to do some guided off-piste.
I did a UCPA off-piste week in Tignes last Xmas and had a great time, will be doing another UCPA week unless I find something more interesting.

Any suggestions of companies that are solo friendly that organise trips to Sweden/Canada/Japan?
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
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@Daishan, is Sweden that hp snow sure? I don’t think so...

Is even Canada? I don’t know.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Black Diamond Tours/Lodge for Japan - went solo in 2014 and had an utter blast.
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@under a new name, really no idea, was hoping some more knowledgeable snowHead could point the way.
I've done all my skiing in France and Italy so far so fancied something more exotic like Japan/Canada or Sweden/Norway as I like the Nordic countries.

@clarky999, looks nice and they do Xmas week with 1 day of cat skiing Very Happy
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@Daishan, Scandinavia at midwinter means very short days, there's not much light. I doubt there's much floodlit off piste Laughing
Probably better later in the season, especially if you are willing to skin up.
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@mgrolf, good point about the daylight, should've thought of that myself.

Bah after looking at the Black Diamond site in more detail looks like xmas week is sold out :/
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If you go to Canada you don't need a guide for off-piste as everything in bounds is avy controlled. You can ski trees, bowls, chutes, etc. that have never seen a pistebasher. Stay in a hostel and you can easily find others to ski with. As to where in Canada depends on what kind of terrain you are looking for, if you need nightlife or not, and budget.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@boarder2020, I'd prefer to be with a guided group as much for finding the best conditions and not ending up with needlessly long walk outs as for safety.
I'm sure it's fairly easy to find people to ski with but I do like the idea of something a little more structured.

I'm not looking for silly steep terrain, I like tree skiing, don't mind a little skinning but preferably not more than a couple of hours uphill per day.

Would like to keep the budget under 3k though for something special could go to 4k maybe (including flights food ect).
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I'm not really sure you get the concept of North American in bounds. No skinning required (maybe a little bootpack here and there), no walk outs it all funnels to a lift. As for best conditions, people in n America actually speak to each other on the lift - a quick "where's good today" will probably get you a free guided tour. Although the mountains run free guided tours anyway. Plus most of the good stuff is clearly marked on the piste map, and with a little internet research you can work out the "secret" spots. Of course if all that fails you can just book a guide for the day that will happily not touch a piste other than where necessary.

If you are desperate for a group extremely Canadian at whistler are as good as it gets (but may border on silly steep depending on your definition).
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You don't have long walkouts if you are inbounds in N America. Everything ends at worst on a cattrack that you ski back round to the frontside as long as you don't duck any ropes to get to the extra bit of fresh. Mind you a bit hesitant to recommend N America at Xmas after last year's debacle. Got some good hiking in and private access to some National Parks.
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Hmmm ok so can probably get the type of skiing I want without a guide in Canada but snow cover might not be great Xmas week.
Which resorts would you recommend early season?

If Black Diamond Tours really is booked up for Xmas week any other similar companies in Japan people would recommend?
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Hi Daishan,

My partner and I had a fantastic time in Canada over last Christmas/New Year (and like skiing in North America mainly for the in bounds off piste). We flew into Calgary and went on a road trip along the Powder Highway, with 3 days in Banff (Sunshine/Lake Louise), 4 days in Kicking Horse, on to Revelstoke - 5 days planned, in the event headed back to KH for an extra day; finishing with 3 days in Fernie.

We loved Kicking Horse - decent snow cover and some pretty exciting ridge/bowl skiing at the top of the resort. It has its quirks - there is one long gondola which goes from base to summit so you need to not mind skiing long-ish laps. Sunshine seemed like a very nice mountain but their big off piste selling point (Delirium Dive) was closed due to lack of snow cover when we were there. Revelstoke we felt was a bit over-sold - the resort skiing is less challenging than either of the above - but it does have access to a lot of relatively cheap cat and heliskiing where you can buy into a slot as part of a group. Trade off is that the terrain you access is likewise not so challenging. Fernie is a series of bowls which involve a lot of 'exploring' style traversing and then descending through trees. Snow cover was fine at Fernie and Revelstoke though some areas of Fernie get closed by wind.

Other North American ski recommendations - have skiied Aspen at Christmas, with mostly fine snow cover - Snowmass and Highlands both have phenomenal off piste (google the Highland Bowl to get an idea). Also love Utah skiing (Snowbird/Alta are wonderful - basing yourself out of Salt Lake City has access to 7-8 great resorts including those two within an hour's drive) but have never tried it at Christmas. Of all those Snowbird and Aspen have the only comparable terrain to Canada in terms of steeps.

Caveats - Canadian skiing is really, really cold at Christmas. The resorts aren't really big enough to occupy you for a whole ten days, and there is a lot of driving to do what we did, often in challenging conditions. (And I have never been to Whistler so don't know how it compares to other bits of Canada.)
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@Daishan, actually, Utah is a very good idea. I had the most epic time there early one November when the snow arrived super early. Skinning around the Teton with Jackson Hole Mountain Guides and a day out with the Alta ski patrol (!) (an old friend is married to one of the senior patrollers).
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You know it makes sense.
Thanks for all the replies Smile

@schauspiele, hiring a car might not be the best option for me, I've only ever driven in the UK and not even in the hilly bits that often probably best not to try unfamiliar snowy mountain roads solo, plus not best value without sharing the hire cost.
Will definitely do some googling of the resort's you suggested.

@under a new name, I'm biased against America but should take a better look as the skiing does look epic.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
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@Daishan, even on a bad day Utah is pretty fine. And you don’t need a guide etc. if you are inbounds off piste.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Quote:

Canada but snow cover might not be great Xmas week.


True. But I'd still have more faith in Canada than Europe for Xmas week. The only way to guarantee snow cover is to go later on in the year or book last minute.


Quote:

The resorts aren't really big enough to occupy you for a whole ten days


Did 50 days at kicking horse last year; was not bored and still finding new places at the end - not surprising considering they have over 80 inbound chutes. Lots of people have "ski'd out kicking horse" without even finding the rope down into the chute (Dutch wallet) or slapshot (both kh classics). Plus awesome backcountry access (t2.5, t3, Rudy's, dogtooth etc.).

If you want a huge area look at whistler (although it will be heaving at Christmas).

You can get by without a car, greyhound bus or shuttles are possible.

Canada dollar is a little weaker so Canada tends to be cheaper than USA.

If you are going to do n America you need to work out where and get your lift pass sorted. Turning up without a pass and buying at the window is very expensive.
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If you stay in Europe these guys are good
https://www.powder-extreme.com
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I'm conceptually planning something around JH SLC Aspen and other Colo stuff for Xmas /NY. But if snow skunks like last year it would turn JH Big Sky Red Revy Banff I think.
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I’m clueless as to euro skiing (my first experience will be this coming January) but I can contribute to this thread as I have considerable experience skiing North America at Christmas.
Statistically your best chance of good snow cover/most percentage of terrain open is Grand Targhee in Wyoming, Alta in Utah, Whistler in British Columbia and Steamboat in Colorado followed closely by Jackson Hole in Wyoming.
http://bestsnow.net/fam_ski.htm
We skied at Alta, Jackson, Targhee and Mammoth over last Christmas/early new year (one of the worst for snow in many years) and there was still a ton of terrain open including plenty of off piste.
Previous years have been even more impressive.
Driving in The States is a lot easier than it sounds but if you’re dead set against that idea and want to avoid the circus/crowds that is Whistler in a holiday period I would suggest staying in the town of Jackson might be a good option. Jackson Hole is an iconic mountain and there’s a bus that goes over the hill to Grand Targhee each day. I can assure you that boredom won’t be an issue. Tours to Yellowstone National Park leave from Jackson and the National Elk Refuge is just outside the town too.
Most of the interior of Canada (Banff in particular but Fernie as an exception) is similar to most of Colorado as far as early season snowfall is concerned - best left for later in the season.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Dave of the Marmottes wrote:
I'm conceptually planning something around JH SLC Aspen and other Colo stuff for Xmas /NY. But if snow skunks like last year it would turn JH Big Sky Red Revy Banff I think.
Interesting, would be nice to have someone experienced to ski with, the couple of days at the EoSB where good fun. Let me know if you get any further with the planning.

Still quite interested in Japan, has anyone skied with Powder Recon?
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Hiring a car for a solo skier can add considerable to the cost, worse in the holiday period.

Try to plan on NOT hiring a car. Many of the suggested N. America destinations can be done without a car. As long as you don't mind a quick bus ride in the morning/evening.

Inbound off-piste in north American is good for skiing off the piste. But it isn't the same as guided off-piste in Europe either. Because it's inbound, avi-controlled, you don't have the place to yourself (your group) as you do in Europe.

It's not better or worse. It's just different.
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under a new name wrote:
... Is even Canada [snow sure at that time of year]?...

That's why I go there. In 30-odd seasons I've never seen a white-strip-on brown.
Whistler had two of those events in that time early season, I just drove past to where the snow was wink

I have moaned about the "brutal" conditions once or twice.
"Brutal" means that everything is white, the on-piste is perfect and well maintained, there are no rocks, the tourists are all happy and delighted,
but there's not been fresh snow for three or more days. My point is that you need to know what people mean when they say "no snow".

I doubt anywhere world-wide is "snow sure".
People will say: "well if there's a glacier then it's snow sure".
They have forgotten that it's no good if you can't see it, or if it's icy crust, or if it's going to slide on you, or if it's raining on it.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
So what's the status of Delirium Dive in Sunshine for example ? It's regarded as inbounds to all intents and purposes but unless it's changed you need a buddy, transceiver / shovel / probe to access (in fact your beacon opens the gate). I believe that there are a few other examples of similar in N. America but can't remember where off-hand
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Delirium dive is controlled, they don't open it everyday. Think the beacon thing is just a way of trying to keep the skiers who don't have the ability for that sort of terrain out (of course you don't need to be a good skier to have a beacon, but I guess it is a simple way to try).

Bridger bowl also has a lift you need a beacon for.

Not sure about big sky. For some of the runs (e.g. big colouir) you need to book a time slot with ski patrol, but not sure if you need avy stuff too.
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boarder2020 wrote:
Delirium dive is controlled, they don't open it everyday. Think the beacon thing is just a way of trying to keep the skiers who don't have the ability for that sort of terrain out (of course you don't need to be a good skier to have a beacon, but I guess it is a simple way to try).

Bridger bowl also has a lift you need a beacon for.

Not sure about big sky. For some of the runs (e.g. big colouir) you need to book a time slot with ski patrol, but not sure if you need avy stuff too.


Yep my understanding of DD is that it is as much about keeping inexperienced dabblers and have a go holiday heroes out as it is about objective avi risk. Though it is complex terrain and you can cliffed out so in that respect it is different from many marked runs in N America. I'd say the gemstone bowls at Blackcomb are similar.
I'd want to tag along with somone who knew the area my first time down.
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Quote:
I'd say the gemstone bowls at Blackcomb are similar. I'd want to tag along with somone who knew the area my first time down.


Met two guys who clearly had no idea at the top of the sapphire high entrance chute. "Where's the easy way down?" Erm well you kind of missed it way back up there... There's so many warning signs, but people ignore them/overestimate their skills. There are some relatively easy ways down if you know where your going, the trouble is there's no markings at all and plenty of exposed cliffs.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Delirium dive is quite rocky. So it takes quite a lot of snow to have them covered. Unfortunately, Sunshine doesn't have the highest snowfall record. You get the drift...

For the OP, that wouldn't work too well since he doesn't have a buddy to pair up with.

I've skied a bunch of places that "recommend" beacon but without wearing one. Objectively speaking, I skied them when avi level was LOW (2)! But even then, I've had this unsettling experience of "sluff" -- top layer of loose snow, sliding alongside of me. In the Rockies, the snow is dry. So it doesn't take very steep slope for the snow to lose their connection to the underlying snowpack. That, being one difference between N America and Europe. (mind you, that doesn't apply to the coastal regions like Whistler and Tahoe)

boarder2020 wrote:

Not sure about big sky. For some of the runs (e.g. big colouir) you need to book a time slot with ski patrol, but not sure if you need avy stuff too.

Beacon is RECOMMANDED but not required (not enforced). Instead, you're given a time slot to go down on your own. My impression is, so you can't trigger the slide on top of other more responsible party below you.
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So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
If the weather is right I would go in Scotland.




15/12/2017 but the weather is unreliable and it is usually not particularly good abroad off piste either. For example even in Tignes, off piste is usually not very good in December due to snow level. It depends on the snow fall.

To get good off piste skiing, you have to watch snowfall, and go where the snow is falling. This often means last minute accomodation. Which is best obtained from a winterised campervan.



Even in Scotland, it would be best to follow the snow with a campervan. (as often when the snow really dumps it is best to get there the night before as you cannot get there the day after because of road conditions, and traffic which may be heavy due to good snow)
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You know it makes sense.
I should go and ski Scotland at some point, though I really don't have the correct vehicle atm, silly old little merc coupe, last year when there was a light dusting of snow I needed a push to get out of the local tesco Embarassed

I'm currently talking to Powder Recon based in Myoko Japan, sounds like they do just the type of thing I'm looking for, some guided off-piste on the easier end and accommodation in their lodge with other guests looking for the same stuff, Black Diamond Tours looked good but the NY week they had available seems to be aimed a little on the extreme side for me atm. Japan also makes it easy for me to stop off in Helsinki for a couple of nights to see a friend.

Not decided for certain yet and all the info on north america is nice, maybe 2019-20 if not this season Very Happy
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Quote:
Delirium dive is controlled, they don't open it everyday. Think the beacon thing is just a way of trying to keep the skiers who don't have the ability for that sort of terrain out ...

Quote:
...my understanding of DD is that it is as much about keeping inexperienced dabblers and have a go holiday heroes out as it is about objective avi risk....

It's not a wally-stopper, you actually need it:
https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/sunshine-village-experts-checked-run-before-avalanche-1.2594785

The gate also reduces the risk of your relatives being able to take legal action against the resort.
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 Poster: A snowHead
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Go to Japan.
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Quote:
It's not a wally-stopper, you actually need it:
https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/sunshine-village-experts-checked-run-before-avalanche-1.2594785


If you read the article you will see it's controlled:

"Over the past week, the resort used explosives and helicopter bombing to stabilize the snow and skiers criss-crossed the area to check the stability"

“In fact, on the morning of the incident, two trained avalanche experts were in Milky Way checking it, cutting it, criss-crossing it and they deemed it safe.”

It was an inbound slide, rare but they do happen. Generally ski patrol are on the over cautious side about opening terrain to prevent things like this happening.
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Greyhound have just announced they are pulling out of BC so interior is now probly a no go without a car.
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